Page E1.3. 05 December 2012   
ArchitectureWeek - Environment Department
< Prev Page Next Page >
  • What's Up with U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions?


      Current Contents
      Blog Center
      Download Center
      New Products
      Products Guide
      Classic Home
      Architecture Forum
      Architects Directory
      Topics Library
      Complete Archive
      Web Directory
      About ArchWeek
      Subscribe & Contribute
      Free Newsletters


    [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    What's Up with U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions?


    EPA to the Rescue

    The EIA used to actually calculate and report its own U.S. total greenhouse gas emissions numbers. That EIA overall GHG inventory was discontinued in 2011, due to mid-year budget cuts, according to an EIA source.

    However, the EIA has never been the source of the official U.S. inventory.

    The official U.S. greenhouse gas emissions inventory has been produced for many years by the EPA, following detailed international reporting protocols. It's presented to the United Nations every April, in a careful and fairly hard-to-read formal report.

    The most recent official EPA inventory, reported in April 2012 and showing total U.S. emissions for 2010, shows our emissions going up that year:

    ArchWeek Image

    The current EPA inventory report shows total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions for 2010 up 3.2% over 2009 emissions, with an average annual growth rate from 1990 through 2010 of 0.5%.

    It's hard to say what increase or decrease the U.S. inventory for 2011 will show, when the EPA releases it in April 2013, or what the inventory for 2012 will show when it comes out in April 2014.

    Unless someone is prepared to duplicate the EPA's work, and do it faster, we can expect to wait for those numbers.

    Bottom Line

    U.S. major media and others have been trumpeting a false meme of declining U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, spinning off from EIA data that actually shows a much narrower trend.

    While the primary EIA data represents a large, very specific piece of the overall U.S. emission inventory, it's fundamentally misleading to inflate its importance. Nonetheless, this seems to have been done regularly by the EIA itself, and to an even greater degree by downstream users of EIA information.

    In the past, EIA produced an overall emissions inventory. And because energy consumption is easier to collect and report on quickly than other types of emissions, they continue to produce reports including U.S. CO2 emissions from energy use, which the EIA releases at a pace tantalizingly close to real time.

    No doubt it's frustrating to media and officials who love to report on realtime score cards, but the only official U.S. greenhouse gas emission inventory comes from the EPA. It takes a while for all the data to be collected and complied — and impatience is no reason to misrepresent the data available.

    In any case, year-to-year ups and downs in U.S. emissions are not very meaningful relative to the scale of the climate mitigation challenge we face together.

    In the U.S., we need to be planning and faithfully implementing, in every sector of our economy, in every government, agency, and large organization, roughly 5% reductions in total greenhouse gas emissions, every year, year-on-year, for the rest of our lives.

    And no blip in annual emissions, whether actual or invented, is going to rescue business-as-usual from this fundamental need for real climate action.

    Kevin Matthews is Editor in Chief of ArchitectureWeek. More by Kevin Matthews


    Discuss this article in the Architecture Forum...


    comments powered by Disqus


    ArchWeek Image

    The LEED-Platinum certified renovation of the 36-story, twin-tower Deutsche Bank headquarters building in Frankfurt, Germany, originally built in 1983, involved complete reskinning with triple glazing and exposing interior concrete structure to provide active thermal mass.
    Photo: Courtesy Deutsche Bank Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    The reskinning of the Deutsche Bank headquarters included the addition of operable windows.
    Photo: Courtesy Deutsche Bank Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    These graphs show the year-by-year contributions to carbon dioxide emissions of the top four fossil-fuel-emitter nations on an absolute and per capita basis since 1960.
    Image: Courtesy Global Carbon Budget Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    This graph from a January, 2012 paper by Glen P. Peters, et al., plots global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and the carbon intensity of the global economy over the period from 1960 to 2010, showing that emissions have typically dropped along with the carbon intensity per dollar during major recessions and that global emissions are already back to a rapid growth trend line following the Great Recession.
    Image: Nature Climate Change Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    Industrial coal production, shown here in Australia, continues to increase today in most parts of the world. This is killing us.
    Photo: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    This chart lists large investments by major international banks, including several household names, in coal energy development around the world, illustrating how very deeply entwined these banks are with continuing expansion of fossil fuel consumption.
    Image: urgewald/ GroundWork/ Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and BankTrack Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    This graph of mean annual global temperatures from 1880 to 2010 shows the noisy but unmistakable pattern of overall global warming.
    Image: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    This daily graph charts the area of Arctic sea ice in 2012, as compared with a 2007 low, and against a recent 21-year average.
    Image: NOAA Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    The graph of measured global mean sea level from 1880 to 2011 shows the accelerating rise. As measurements have become available from new satellite instruments and other current research, taking into account accelerated melting of land ice, estimates of sea level rise in the coming decades have been further increased.
    Image: CSIRO Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    The rise of sea level is already displacing people in vulnerable areas. Over coming decades, millions will be displaced, and millions more than that if we don't drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions starting immediately.
    Photo: Flickr user Julie G. Extra Large Image


    Click on thumbnail images
    to view full-size pictures.
    < Prev Page Next Page > Send this to a friend       Subscribe       Free Newsletters       Media Kit       Privacy       Feedback       Twitter       Facebook
    ARCHWEEK  |  GREAT BUILDINGS  |  ARCHIPLANET  |  DISCUSSION  |  BOOKS  |  BLOGS  |  SEARCH © 2012 Artifice, Inc. - All Rights Reserved